Scripture: Acts 9:36-43 (NRSV)
Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, 'Please come to us without delay.' So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, 'Tabitha, get up.' Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.
In the fervor of this political season, it is interesting to have the story of a woman leader for Eastertide consideration. A quick search of my limited Year C resources was fruitless. No sign of Dorcas or Tabitha in the Greek. Unlike many, I have not taken to the world wide web as a primary source of commentary, but have remained rooted in the tangible printed word and the concept of the living word. Thus, I turned to listen to clergy sisters who join with me in lectio divina each month. Two questions emerged after a contemplative reading of the Dorcas story, and I continued to ponder them in the days following.
The first question: How is it that these women did not realize the healing powers they themselves possessed? Clearly, the women surrounding Dorcas were competent, compassionate, and courageous. They were, however, living in a particular context in which they did not feel free to act with those qualities. Their only recourse was to call for a known healer, Peter. They could not even go for him themselves, but were obliged to send two men. If Peter was healing in the spirit of the Risen Christ, could not they also have acted in that same Spirit? Are women today still afraid of their own power? Are men?
The second question that arose in lectio relates to the timing of particular voices in our lives and to God's voice. What is it that enables anyone to hear the call of God, or the message of a fellow pilgrim, at some times and not at others? Is it the traditions that inhibit, or the walls that we erect in our hearts and minds, or both? Was Peter's the only voice that could have stirred Dorcas to return to life? Or could her friends have revived her if only they had had the faith?
We, of course, shall never know. What we can know is that God speaks to us in many voices and in many ways. We do not need to send couriers, or to get on the internet, for the messages that will heal us. When we have the courage to listen, to truly listen, then we will act to bring about new life, for ourselves and for others.
Holy One, as we walk through Eastertide, and live through this presidential campaign, may we see you and hear you, know you and feel you. May the voice of the Risen Christ be the one that we hear above the clamor of all else. Amen.